Banned Books That I’ve Read and Loved

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A week after Banned Book Week and I’m ready to throw my two cents in.  In a past life as a high school librarian I entered my office one day to find an art history book on my desk opened to a photography of a nude statue.  Confused, I simply put the book back in its appropriate shelf only to have it reappear on my desk later in the week.  This happened 2-3 times before a teach finally confronted me and shared her feelings that she felt the book was inappropriate for a high school collection.  I calmly explained the reason for the book being in the collection and of course the book stayed in our collection.  Fortunately she understood and did not take the matter any further.

However, billions of people live in this world and there are as many personal beliefs and there are bound to be conflicts.  For instance, one patron at the Toronto Public believed and voiced his concern that Dr. Seuss’ classic “Hop on Pop” “encourages children to use violence against their fathers”.  The book was fortunately retained.  Another classic by Dr. Seuss was more understandably challenged.  “If I Ran a Zoo” was challenged yet retained at a Vancouver Library for the line about helpers “who all wear their eyes at a slant” which was accompanied by racial stereotypical illustrations of Asians.  The library did decide not to use the story during storytimes or promote it in any other way other than a historical portrayal of how culture has changed.  If you’d like to read more about why certain books have been challenged and/or banned, check out ALA’s Banned Book Week resources.

When I was younger and before I went to college to become a Librarian, I was always confused by Banned Book Week.  I never understood why all these “banned” books were put on display in my public or school library.  I mean if they are banned doesn’t that mean they are not allowed, and don’t we live in a democracy?  Books celebrated during Banned Book Week are not banned universally but may have been challenged and removed from a library collection somewhere for some reason.  Below are some of my favorite books, banned, challenged, or not and I wanted to share them with you and your patrons/students.  Curiously 8 out of 10 of these books are also award winners as noted by CLCD.  Read these and enjoy your freedom to make your own judgements.


A Prayer for Owen Meany
A Prayer for Owen Meany
By: John Irving

While playing baseball in the summer of 1953, Owen Meany hits a foul ball that kills his best friend’s mother, and he becomes convinced that he is an instrument of God.  Ages 14 and up

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
By: Alexie Sherman

Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Ages 14 and up


And Tango Makes Three
And Tango Makes Three
By: Justin Richardson

At New York City’s Central Park Zoo, two male penguins fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches. Based on a true story.  Ages 4 to 8

Deadline
Deadline
By: Chris Crutcher

When he is given the medical diagnosis of one year to live, Ben Wolf decides to fulfill his greatest fantasies, ponders his life’s purpose and legacy, and converses through dreams with a spiritual guide known as “Hey-Soos.” Ages 14 and up

Eleanor & Park
Eleanor & Park
By: Rainbow Rowell

“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try”– Ages 13 and up

Hop on Pop
Hop on Pop
By: Dr. Seuss

Uses a series of short words that rhyme in situations that stimulate reading skills and develop the ability to associate words and actions. Ages 3 to 7


Paper Towns
Paper Towns
By: John Green

One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin “Q” Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q’s neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears. Ages 14 to 18


Speak
Speak
By: Laurie Halse Anderson

A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda’s freshman year in high school. Ages 12 and up


The Miseducation of Cameron Post
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
By: Emily M. Danforth

In the early 1990s, when gay teenager Cameron Post rebels against her conservative Montana ranch town and her family decides she needs to change her ways, she is sent to a gay conversion therapy center.  Ages 14 and up


If I Ran the Zoo
If I Ran the Zoo
By: Dr. Seuss

Gerald McGrew dreams up his own zoo and how he would stock it. Not with old-fashioned animals, but with exciting new ones–a lion with 10 feet, an elephant-cat, and a family of Joats with squirrel-like coats and voices like goats.  Ages 4 to 8

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